Surviving the Odds

This should not be how you become an only child. Photo credit: Pixar

This should not be how you become an only child. Photo credit: Pixar

If you had a dollar for every time you heard the phrase ‘one in a million’, how much money would you have? What does it mean to be special/ the chosen one/ odd one out? And what does that mean mathematically?

Marlin the clownfish had that question to answer when tragedy struck his young family. Marlin’s dream of raising a large family with his partner Coral were dashed when all of them were taken from him prematurely, save for one little egg, whom he named Nemo. Having survived that initial threat to his life, Nemo would then go on to be taken far from home while Marlin embarks on a journey to find him.

Marlin and Coral with their clutch, unaware of what lies ahead. Photo credit: Pixar

Marlin and Coral with their clutch, unaware of what lies ahead. Photo credit: Pixar

Staying Alive

Today, let’s go back to where the story of Finding Nemo began – the coral reef. By being the only surviving egg, was Nemo one in a million? How many eggs does a clownfish lay at one time?

In the wild, clownfish lay their eggs in coral reefs. The number of eggs they lay at one time is called a clutch, and clutch sizes vary from 100 to 1000 eggs. For simplicity, let’s assume that Marlin and Coral’s clutch to be of that size range. Taking Nemo as a sole survivor in his clutch, his survival rate range will work out to be as follows.

1 out of 100

 

one-percent

1 out of 1000

zero-point-one percent

Now compare that calculation to being one in a million…

1 out of 1,000,000

one in a million

Here’s how the rates stack up.

Clutch size 100 1,000 1,000,000
Survival rate 1% 0.1% 0.0001%

Nemo’s survival rate decreases as the size of the clutch increases. While we do not wish the fate of his family upon any clownfish, Nemo certainly is lucky that he isn’t one clownfish in a family of one million. For clownfish living out on a great reef, we certainly agree that that’s no laughing matter.